by the hammer of Xav de Matos!
Speaking withÂ the PR rep from Harmonix at the PlayStation Holiday Press Preview Event in Toronto, Canada, we threw every question we had about the upcoming Xbox 360/PS3 release, Rock Band.
Jump in to read our entire 20 minute conversation with one of the PR members from Harmonix regarding everything from the bundles only at launch, PS3 development issues, why Microsoft wanted more money, downloadable content pricing and which Metallica album made the cut.
If you are craving Rock Band details, you need to read this.
On the “items not sold separately until 2008” rumors
When Rock Band ships this November it will only be available in one flavor, bundled. Done. Confirmed. Although there are a few reasons for this the main seems to be based on retail. Firstly, the components in the bundle are not cheap and thus creating a bundle and three other separate packages (guitar, drums and vocals) would increase costs which could lead to less bundles available at ship. Lastly, although retail partners are confident the title will be successful they are appreciative of the fact that they won’t have to display four reasonably-sized packages in each of their stores. When is Harmonix looking to ship the separate components? Early 2008 is the general goal, so EB/GameStop’s leak was correct.
On the PS2 version and the lack of online anything
The outsourced developed PS2 version of Rock Band that is slated to release in December will obviously feature no downloadable content but more surprisingly the prev-gen version will feature no online component at all. “Rock Band is built as a next generation title with a focus on downloadable content and online multiplayer, the PS2 just isn’t built for those ideas.” While it is possible PS2 owners will receive new content via retail expansion (think, Guitar Hero Encore: Rock’s the 80s), nothing as been discussed. While we were told the game looks great and plays as well as the in-house developed Harmonix next-gen versions, it was important to release it on the PS2 because of the fan base who have yet to make the next-gen plunge.
On PS3 development issues
“Early in development the PlayStation 3 version just didn’t look as good [as the X360 version], but we caught it early and now you can’t tell the difference.” Having played both, I can tell you they both look fantastic.
On wired and wireless guitars
It’s no surprise that Microsoft asks for quite a bit of pocket change to use their proprietary wireless technology, and rather than pay the price and have the two next-gen versions sell at different price points, Harmonix decided the best thing they could do for consumers was to decide against wireless Xbox 360 guitars.Â Also, he mentioned that there will not be any stand-alone guitars available in 2007– so don’t trash those Xplorer’s yet 360 fans!
On the $169.99 (USD) price point
“$100 is asking quite a lot for just a guitar and a game, we think asking $70 more for the drums and microphone that change the experience is an amazing value.”
On the trouble with Canada and loonies
Americans need not worry but Canadian gamers might want to look out for this one. Currently the dollar value in Canada is nearly equal to the penny as the American dollar, but the Canadian price point is still in the air for Rock Band. While we’re hoping it will be around the $170 mark, Canadians may need to pony up more– but we couldn’t get a definite answer to support that. However, because of packaging regulations in Canada the release of Rock Band may see some small delays to go north of the border. Canadian standards force all packaging to come in both English and French-Canadian, and this issue- coupled with shipping quantities to Canada- may delay the release in the Great White North. Our advice? Drive south until you see a sign that says GameStop.
On competing against the Guitar Hero brand-name
While Harmonix is proud of their work in Guitar Hero they are quick to point out they’re intention for the series was to take it to the next level, which is what spawned Rock Band. Harmonix is confident in the product they’ve produced and that is why they’ve used every opportunity to showcase the game at every major event. While the Guitar Hero name is known to casual and hardcore audiences alike they believe the Rock Band will win people over with its strong focus on the music. WhileÂ Guitar Hero III tracks seem to be moreÂ focused on great shredding tracks,Â Rock Band has great overall band tracks enjoyable on each of the bundle’s included peripherals. Rock Band also has the added benefit of working with MTV and EA. “Working with MTV on a music game doesn’t hurt” the rep told us, while later adding thatÂ EA is a very supportive partner in the venture.
On the fear of being disconnected
We pointed out what others have said in the past, Rock Band is in its element when shown at events because of the stage atmosphere coupled with three band members by your side, but how will it translate online? We asked if there is a fear the title will lose the luster its been polishing on so much since it was first shown and the simple answer is; it depends on how you play the game. “I think the game works better when you at least have another person in the room playing with you,” but that isn’t to say the game mechanics will fall apart when you’re alone in your room. The game depends on teamwork and energy, when four people decide to play Rock Band they are going to work together or realize very quickly straying from the formula will end their session. While it might be funny to grief in a game of WarHawk or Halo 3, it doesn’t work the same in Rock Band. “The great thing about Rock Band is if all your buddies up and move to Chicago or somewhere, the band won’t have to break up.”
On Downloadable Content Pricing (DLC)
It’s widely known how vocal the internet was against the Activision pricing structure of DLC for Guitar Hero II on the Xbox 360, but how does Rock Band’s pricing compare? “I don’t know if I can say we’re cheaper or more expensive but remember, where as in other games they adjust the tracks for one or two guitars, in Rock Band it’s vocals, drums, guitar and bass on multiple difficulties. One thing we will do is give the gamer options. You can buy an album, or if you only want one or two tracks you can purchase those items separately.” While he did say it would obviously be cheaper to purchase them as a bundle, they may have scenarios where they offer promotions such as Buy 2 get one free/cheaper but nothing has been decided. It was also mentioned that the Xbox 360 and PS3 content will be priced similarly.
On DLC frequency
Harmonix is committed to providing gamers with a wide selection of new content and promises that one week from launch The Who’s famous album “Who’s Next” will be made available for download. Harmonix has also scheduled new content to be released every week until the end of 2007 to keep the game fresh throughout the holiday season.
On the total number of tracks available in Rock Band
While the rep did confirm the game is complete, although he wouldn’t say gone gold, he would confirm there are more than 40 but less than 50 tracks on the retail disc– which does not include the unlockable tracks found in the game.
We’re all thinking about it, which album did Harmonix secure from Metallica’s catalouge. “The great thing about working with Metallica is we have so much music to choose from, but we haven’t said which album we’re releasing. Everyone asks: â€˜Oh, which Metallica album are you guys using!”Â After a brief minute pause I went onto my next question.
Oh, which Metallica album are you guys using?
Hey, I tried!
Rock Band ships for the PlayStation 2 on December 17, the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions will hit the stores on November 23.
[Updated: Corrected some grammatical errors.]
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